#Halal now a lifestyle definition on Instagram
The word “halal” is no longer being defined only in a religious context but is becoming a lifestyle term associated with health and fashion around the globe, a new study of Instagram posts led by QCRI’s Yelena Mejova has found.
Young people are now embracing halal products, with style-conscious and health-conscious Muslims, and likely non-Muslims, closely associating the word with concepts such as vegan, vegetarian and organic, the research found.
Halal defines items permissible under Islamic law, and applies to products including foods, drinks and food additives.
Dr. Mejova and researchers from the Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Informatique in Algeria and the Universitas Indonesia analyzed more than 1.3 million recent Instagram posts in English, Arabic and Indonesian-speaking populations. The data follows a global conversation about halal, much of it by “Generation M”, a term coined last year by author Shelina Jannmohamed describing young Muslims who embrace modernity as well as faith.
The scientists found that in English, mentions of halal were increasingly associated with food and health concepts, in Indonesian they focused more on cosmetics and health, while Arabic references included sub-topics around fashion and technology.
“Halal is becoming cool and a lifestyle definition among social media users, who are often young,” said Dr. Mejova.
“Throughout the data we find examples of posts receiving thousands of likes promoting a halal fashion shows, halal fitness culture, halal movies and other lifestyle posts depicting clothes and stylish surroundings.
“But what was surprising to us is we also noticed that posts mentioning some halal certification are likely to get fewer likes than those that don’t.”
Dr. Mejova said the researchers also noticed the number of posts mentioning the word halal was not strictly correlated with the population demographics of Muslims living in different countries, including the UK and the US.
“When we are seeing posts among non-Muslims who have their halal meat with a glass of wine we know that the understanding of halal is changing in all of these places. On social media, it appears to have broadened to incorporate lifestyle elements.”
The findings, recently published in the journal Frontiers in Digital Humanities, could be useful to policy makers, producers of halal products, health professionals and religious scholars on how to effectively market halal goods.
Dr Mejova and her colleagues intend to build on their research by exploring how culture interacts with health-related behaviors, such as eating a healthy diet and going to the gym, to help devise better health campaigns.
Journal article link: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fdigh.2017.00021/full
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